Freelancing can be a tough gig. And I should know – I’ve been a freelance writer for the last seven years.
Nevertheless, according to the IPSE (Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), it is a growing sector in the self-employment market. Indeed, in 2020, there were more than two million freelancers in the UK contributing 16 162 billion to the economy.
Another 293,000 people have freelanced their day job as well as side character – and that’s how I started. But with encouragement from a freelancer website, I was lucky enough that it turned out to be a full-time job. Here’s what I learned.
How does a freelancer website work?
As a freelancer, you can usually sign up on a platform for free and search for a wide range of jobs and projects.
You will then have the opportunity to quote or ‘pitch’ for a job of your choice. Alternatively, you can advertise your skills and qualifications and wait for clients to come to you. Payment is made when you finish work.
What are the benefits of using a freelancer website?
When I started, I used Hourly People (PPH). This is simply because in 2014 when I decided to make a fuss as a writer, it was an already well-established platform (it was founded in 2007).
Although I imagine that many other sites will give you a similar experience, I have found that professionals include:
- Lots of jobs in a wide range of industries worldwide – It has given me the opportunity to try my hand at pitching for work in different sectors.
- Great for starting your portfolio – Writing a little chicken and eggs. It’s hard to get a break if you don’t have a portfolio, and you can’t get a portfolio unless someone breaks you in the first place. Start-ups and new businesses often advertise on freelancer sites and are more willing to let a newcomer go.
- You can create a recurring client base – I’m lucky enough to get that repetitive job. So if you want, you can create a complete client base using a freelancer platform.
And what is the difficulty?
- Commission – Freelancer sites usually make money by taking a percentage of your earnings. The amount varies and it is often a sliding scale. For example, they will take X% on anything up to% Y. Keep in mind that this can be up to 20% in some cases.
- Low paid work – A high percentage of jobs will be paid poorly. Especially with PPH, I have pitted myself against international freelancers whose cost of living means they can do very little work.
- You may not get paid at all – Fortunately, this never happened to me, but some clients will basically haunt you once you have handed over the job. However, with PPH, you can ask for a deposit to be kept in escrow. If your client is the default, you will at least get something for your efforts.
So, how did I (finally) turn my rush into a full-time job?
Freelancing gave me a safety net when I was still employed if things didn’t work out. But, since I was in the role of a contract, it gave me a deadline and gave me the push I needed to implement it.
Obviously, since I was still employed, it meant pitching and working in the evenings and on weekends, which was quite tiring.
In the beginning, I failed miserably. And intuitively, my pitches were pretty rubbish – mainly because I’m not very good at selling myself perfectly. I just took ‘no’ for an answer.
So, after several long conversations with me as well as tears and tears, here’s what I did.
1. Focus on my skills and qualifications
My degree is in English linguistics, and I am a native British English speaker. So, I made sure that clients on all my pitches knew they were mastering higher English.
2. Highlight my experience
Of course, I had no experience as a writer, but my previous career as a retail buyer gave me insights into business practice, working under stress, and working within strict deadlines. If you are thinking of a career change, emphasize why your existing experience makes you a strong candidate.
An. Stop not taking for granted
It was big for me. When the pitches are rejected, I start sending follow-up emails setting the previous two points. Finally, it paid off and I finished a series of articles about the property. I won’t lie, it was badly paid, but it gave me the breaks and experience I needed.
4. Don’t give up!
All in all, I have been using PPH for about 18 (long, tedious) months.
And when I no longer use freelancer sites, PPH gives me confidence and the stepping stones I need to build a portfolio strong enough for me can really go it alone.
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